Understanding Probate II

Ever wondered why a stitch in time saves nine? Well we have. FBN Trustees’ professionals have pondered on the subject and dealt with real life examples long enough to understand what it means. A stitch in time really saves more than nine. It could save you stress and even your life.

To be fulfilled in life, leaving a legacy may be the most important consideration. You have to make sure that your loved ones have things all settled out when you’re gone.

To provide a practical approach to understand probate here’s a true life case study sent by one of our listeners on the weekly FBN Trustees’ Legacy Series Show on Classic 97.3FM

The other day (last week to be precise), you outlined how Probate works. While the discussions were exciting and an eye opener, you made it very easy devoid of all forms of encumbrances. Well, we lost our mum some 5years ago and have been struggling to get a Letter of Administration because she passed away without a plan – no Will or Trust in place. During this time, we have been unable to make progress on her Estate as none of the financial institutions we visited agreed to give us access to her accounts – not even a statement of account or balances…it’s been an emphatic NO to all our pleads – and this is despite the fact that she named my elder sister as her next-of-kin. As things are now, we have been unable to carry out some of her wishes, some verbally expressed while she was alive or through one-on-one discussions with a few of us.

What should the next of kin do in a circumstance like this?
In practice, being the Next of Kin of a deceased does not ascribe beneficial rights to the assets of the deceased on a person. In most cases, when someone passes on without an Estate Plan, the Next of Kin is considered the ‘unofficial heir’. The Next of Kin would have to initiate the Probate process to have access to the assets of the deceased.

One popular school of thought is the idea of using a video camera and verbally passing out instructions on how you want assets to be distributed. This process is not one professionals would recommend. A video can be a supporting document to a will, but it cannot legally stand on its own. Most importantly, it is a statutory requirement that Wills must be in writing.

What is the typical timeframe for one to obtain a Letter of Administration?
The minimum time period to obtain a letter of administration is 6 months. It can take years to resolve some cases. That can be very frustrating for your family members. Some families even give up, having tried most avenues. This is one of the main reasons why having an Estate Plan is very important.

What could be done to hasten the process since her Estates have been in limbo these past years?
For most cases, hastening the process requires patience and a clear, collective mind to track events relevant to the case at hand. In some instances, files can get missing. Thus, it is important to follow up and ensure that progress is made. It is very important to get a professional involved as this can reduce the amount of time for the process to be resolved.

Why is it that people hesitate or sometimes refuse to plan?
Most people initially associate Estate Planning with the thought of death. Estate Planning is not all about dying. This is why there are various tools/instruments that can enable you to plan properly. You can adopt the tool of a Will, which comes into effect only when the write of the Will is no longer alive. However, the Living Trust gives the Settlor the opportunity to view the workings of his/her plan so as to make sure it is tailored to meet his/her needs. Having a plan makes sure no future crises involving your Estate arises. A lot of people procrastinate thereby creating the avenue for confusion and uncertainties in the hands of the law and relatives.

Never assume that things will always run smoothly. Things move fast these days. You have to make sure that time does not overtake you.

Here’s a quote from Suze Orman, the American author and financial advisor, “Estate planning is an important and everlasting gift you can give your family. And setting up a smooth inheritance isn’t as hard as you might think.”

Tune into the FBN Trustees #LegacySeries show every Monday at 7:00pm on Classic 97.3FM to get expert advice on Estate Planning.

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